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Secret violence is common among adults, and women are usually victims. In fact, nearly half of women killed by murder in the United States are killed by their former or current, intimate partners.
A new study shows that this type of violence also poses a risk to the lives of the young.
The study found that over 2,000 adolescents who were murdered between 2003 and 2016 were killed nearly 7 percent – 150 teenagers – by their current or formerly intimate partner.
Ninety percent of the victims were females and their average age was about 17 years. In almost 80 percent of cases, the perpetrator was 18 years or older.
The findings were published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
"People believe that intimate partner violence among young people is less serious than among adults," says study author Avanti Adhia, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington. "It is important to emphasize that this can really lead to death. It is not something to sweep away like" This is just an argument between the children. ""
Young people who experience emotional abuse or fear of facing danger can call the National Teen Dating Abuse Help, 1-866-331-9474 or LOVEIS text to 22522 and be affiliated with a professional who can help. Teenagers can also chat with someone for help at loveisrespect.org.
The survey may be the first to offer a national estimate for teenage deaths due to dating violence, says Anita Raj, who heads the Center for Gender and Health at the University of California San Diego, and was not involved in the new study.
"I've never seen this kind of work with this very young group," she says. "I didn't know it was a youth problem on this scale."
The new study also provides details on the circumstances of death.
Adhia and her colleagues looked at information in law enforcement and medical examiners or guardians for each case. And they found that firearms, especially handguns, were the most common cause of injury, corresponding to 61 percent of cases.
"In terms of mortality, it was very much related to the availability of guns," said Deborah Capaldi, a developmental psychologist and senior researcher at the Oregon Science Learning Center who has studied teen dating violence but not involved in the new study. "When they are in a situation where they are angry, crazy, out of control, they can reach a gun. It is more likely to stop in the partner who gets killed."
The new study also examined the precipitated events for these deaths. The most common causes were that the victim breaks up with the perpetrator or refuses to start a relationship with them. It accounted for 27 percent of the cases. The perpetrator's jealousy was also included in this group.
Previous research shows that jealousy is a common problem in teenage relationships, Capaldi says.
In one study, she and her colleagues took 17 to 18 year olds to discuss relationship conflicts that they met. The most common question that teens experienced was jealousy among their partners, she says.
"This was equal to girls and boys," she says. "The most dangerous situation is when you have a history of poor control, hostility, and then placed in a high-risk situation like being jealous."
And breakups, she adds, are a particularly volatile and dangerous time in abusive relationships. "We found breakups are for dangerous periods for more likelihood of injury," Capaldi says. "When partners are together, even though they can engage in intimate partner violence, they do not try to do serious damage. When they break up, they strike out and they are trying to hurt the other person."
About 25 percent of the cases were triggered by heated arguments between the victim and the offender, making this the second most common precipitation.
Unconscious use of firearms had also led to some deaths, while others happened because the victim was pregnant and the perpetrator did not want to have the child or fear arrest for statutory rape.
Dating violence is common
The results are "shocking and frightening" but "it is unfortunately not surprising," says Megan Bair-Merritt, pediatrician at the Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine, who wrote an accompanying editorial on the study.
Dating violence among young people is "incredibly common," she says.
According to National Survey on Teen Relationships and Intimate Violence, more than 60 percent of adolescents said they had experienced some form of abuse – physically, sexually and / or emotionally – of someone they were dating or previously related to.
"We must recognize how common violence against teenagers is," stresses Bair-Merritt. "It can have tremendous consequences for health and well-being, including mortality."
Young survivors of intimate partner violence have a higher risk of being in abusive relationships in the future, Raj says.
"This is how they learn to create relationships," she says. "There is the likelihood of this [kind of violence] appearing again."
Prevention and Help
The new findings highlight two important issues of prevention and intervention, Bair-Merritt says.
"How do we talk to teenagers and children about dating violence early?" she says, and "how do we set up good efforts?"
She says that adults should speak openly to children about relationships even before they are dating. "I think it is important to talk about what healthy conditions are," she says.
It is also important that the children have many "safe adults" in their lives, Bair-Merritt adds. These are adults – parents, teachers, trainers, pastors, grandparents – which teens feel comfortable and trust, which they can reach out during stressful experiences.
"For young children … secure relationships with adult buffer from stressors," she says. "There is a physical stress buffer for young people in having these connections. The more [connections] the better."
And pediatricians have a big role in preventing and intervening in violence in teenagers, she writes in the editorial staff.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics says we should talk to teenagers about relationships and support them," says Bair-Merritt. "We have a pretty good range. Most teenagers see their pediatrician at least once a year."
And most children have known their pediatricians for years, so they are more likely to rely on them for information on dating relationships, she says.
Healthcare professionals should be aware of signs that indicate that teenage patients may be in abusive relationships, she writes in the editorial staff. Intimate partner violence has been shown to put adolescence at increased risk for mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Pediatricians can look for signs of these psychological problems, social isolation, and changes in their school performance.
Restricting access to weapons is also part of the solution, Capaldi says. Parents should talk to their children about gun protection, she says, and ensure that any weapons in their own homes are kept in safe places. They should also ask their children whether the person they are eating owns or has access to a gun. "Making sure weapons are safe is a big problem," she says.
Schools can also be a big part of the solution, Capaldi says.
School nurses and counselors can detect signs that they usually abuse and help to support the victims, she says, schools that do not have the resources needed to help should link victims to community resources, such as counseling centers or relevant non-profit organizations.
"Schools and school nurses need to know resources in the area," she says. 19659008] There are several evidence-based programs that teach young people's relationships and how to avoid intimate partner violence, states Adhia, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have a list of such programs.
And there are hotlines specifically for teenagers who face intimate partner violence. as the national Teen Dating Abuse Helpline, Bair-Merritt adds, teens can call 1-866-331-9474 or text LOVE IS to 22522 and be connected to a professional trained to judge if they are in direct danger, how afraid they feel, whether they or their partners have access to firearms and to help individuals get out of uncertain situations. Teenagers can also chat with someone for help at loveisrespect.org.